Keele Icons – 5-a-side football
I think it’s fair to say that the most popular sport when I was at Keele the first time around, both s a participant sport and as a spectator sport, was 5-a-side football
When I arrived there were two leagues, one on Tuesday and another on Thursday nights from 6-8. Teams from outside Keele were allowed to compete in the Tuesday League, which featured the likes of Firestone, Newcastle Police, Hanley Police (that clash was always worth watching!) and Finch’s 5. Some of these teams had a smattering of Stoke City footballers – Gordon Banks, Peter Dobing, George Eastham among them. Imagine a World Cup winner playing in a University league nowadays! Eastham was a fabulous player and in my first year his team, Finch’s 5, won Finals Night (the top four from each league entering a straight knockout competition) and lifted the Roy Capey trophy
That was the last year that ‘outsiders’ were allowed to play in the Tuesday League. I can’t remember the reason, but I have a feeling it was something to do with the number of student teams that were being excluded. There was only space for 16 teams in each league. So the Police teams et al set up a third, Friday league. Even this wasn’t enough to cater for demand so pretty soon there was also a Sunday league. At it’s height there were 64 teams, with an average of 7 in a squad, competing. That’s around 450 players!
And it wasn’t just about competing on the night. We used to practice for hours, discuss the next week’s fixtures the minute the current week was over, argue the toss in the bar over a pint or three. Picking team names was also an art form, with many double entendres and dodgy spellings used in attempts to foil the censor. Thus we had Betty Swollox, Cunning Linguists, Fupped Ducks, etc. All this for a game that lasted precisely 10 minutes!
In my eight years the team that was most successful, though it hurts me to say it as they beat my teams twice in the Final, was Dale Star, winners in 1975,76 and 77. Jake Lewis, Dave Beahon, Kevin Barry, Willy Peters, Graham Benmore and Pete Desmond. A formidable combination.The most successful player was Kevin Barry, who played in two of those teams (75,76) and also won with Caric’s Phallics (78) and SNAFU (79). I suspect, though I’m willing to be proved wrong, that I won most medals (5 League, 3 League Cup, 6 Sneyd Cup, 2 Cygnet Cup, 4 Finals Night runners-up). The one I haven’t mentioned was the sweetest, because in my last year, having lost 4 times in the Final (also, I suspect, a record) I was in a team, SNAFU, that ‘won it all’
I’ll also be controversial here and say that, in my opinion, that was the best team during my 8 years here. Martin Wynn, Steve Quigley, Andy Golledge, Kevin Barry, me and super sub Rich Shanks. We were never beaten, never even drew a match. We even came back three times after leaving to win the Sneyd Cup
While we may have been the best, and Dale Star the most successful, the best loved team was undoubtedly the legendary Millstone Grit. Mature student Denis Keating used to keep goal wearing a smoking jacket and his carpet slippers, while Dave Hadfield, Steve Adams, Brian Evans, Farouk and Paul Dalton (who was actually a very good player) careered around, usually to little effect. I think it took them three seasons before they actually won a game! Great stuff!
And now? Sadly 5-a-side as we knew it is no more! It’s perhaps the most shocking change I’ve found from the seventies. None of the current students know when it died out, so if you do, please let me know
In that vein, apologies to the many great teams and great players I’ve not mentioned. Feel free to add comments about your memories of 5-a-side!